Ayn Rand has a dream ; it was to see people set free, free from the burdens of
government, free from the burden of responsibility, free to live for themselves and for their own advancement. When asked if this pitted Rand against social norms, against the traditional Christian ethics and institution she was unequivocal in her answer “yes” What Rand saw as the biggest obstacle to obtaining her dream was Altruism, the idea that man would care for fellow man, that somehow people would be willing to sacrifice there own dreams and ambitions, sometimes even there lives for the greater good. Rand saw this as weakness and believed that if all people looked after there own interests and but themselves before others it would have the effect of advancing society by default.
Ayn Rand was a strange lady, a philosopher who gathered a collective around her in her apartment by the Empire State Building in Manhattan. She had enjoyed early success with her book ‘fountainhead’ which was turned into a Hollywood movie. However this for Rand was only a start, she was working on her most ambitious project yet, to help fulfil her dream and inspire a new way of behaving, Her Magnum opus was to be ‘Atlas Shrugged’
The theme of Atlas Shrugged was about man breaking out from the restraints of
Government and becoming free thinking, it builds on her themes of Ethical egotism
and rational selfishness. Rand rallies against Government control strategies such as Fascism, Socialism and communism seeing them as failed ideals and means of controlling the people.
Rand believed this would be the Launchpad to herald in her new philosophy, she believed that she along with her followers would be seen as true visionaries. The critics however did not agree with her, Rand became despondent and retreated into her own circle.
Atlas Shrugged however did find a fan base, or rather it keeps finding a fan base, in Silicon Valley during the late 70’s early 80’s Rand suddenly sprung back into fashion.
A young Steve Jobs according to His co founder Steve Wozniak stated that Atlas
shrugged was one of his guides in life. In fact early Silicon valley was a fusion of
Tech Savvy, late 60’s early 70’s hippie idealism and Rand Idealism. Modern Silicon Valley owes as much to Laurel Canyon as it does to MIT and yet in the core of it all is the ideal that selfishness greed and capitalism can produce the better good far more than altruism, compassion and sacrifice ever could.
Of course Silicon Valley is an ever changing beast, 70’s idealism gave way to the 80’s Yuppie culture, the proliferation of the internet only enhanced the reputation of Silicon Valley and produced the dot com boom and social media explosion.
The one thing through this that has remained constant is the devotion to the
teachings and ideals of Rand and the pursuit of freedom for all, At the heart of
Rand’s philosophy is the core message that it’s OK to be selfish, greedy and self
interested, that in order to change society for the good we need to serve our own self
The other constant in this is Sillicon valleys ability to shape the modern landscape, not only the technological advances but the morality and ideology. While Rand sought to be counter cultural to the government of the day we are waking up to the dystopian reality that the very heart of Rands teaching has seeped through the bubble into the mainstream. We see leaders who exude the same principles Rand cherished.
George Micheal once sang ‘Charity is a cloak you wear twice a year’ and it now
seems altruism and compassion have been replaced by opportunism and self